Dispute between council and family over tiny flat

The Novakovic family
The Novakovic family

The Novakovic family face further delays in finding accommodation after being offered what they say is unsuitable accommodation by Aylesbury Vale District Council.

In 2013, Alex Novakovic was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and his parents Jasmine and father Rad issued a desperate plea to raise more than £200,000 for lifesaving treatment in Boston.

Aylesbury folk raised this money in just 12 days, in an incredible show of goodwill.

But last year they received the devastating news that Alex’s cancer had returned. This put the family under immense pressure and Jasmine suffered a breakdown, which meant that Mr Novakovic was forced to give up work to care for his wife and son.

He was forced to sign on at the Job Centre, leading to an eviction notice being issued by their landlord.

The family have been housed by Aylesbury Vale District Council in a tiny flat, with two beds in the living room and three beds in a small bedroom, for Alex, 10, Victoria, 15 and Elizabeth aged seven. They have been in this flat for nearly four months.

Now AVDC have proposed moving to Great Brickhill, to a house unsuitable for Alex’s educational needs.

Mr Novakovic said: “It is hypocrisy of the highest level, AVDC’s public face is ‘we care about the community’ - I and many others don’t think so. It’s my belief that AVDC have failed in their duties of care towards my family.

It’s not suitable for Alex to move so far away, as all the infrastructure has been put in place here to let him get up to date with his education.

He has extra maths on a Monday and Kumon to help him catch up with his English having missed two and a half years of school.

If we were to move to Great Brickhill it would completely upend his life again, we have a great group of people helping him with his education, but not only that, help from the hospital. If we have to move we would lose out on all of that.

“We have applied to the land registry for notice on empty properties in the area, but they are withholding the information. The independent medical practictioner doesn’t get involved in cases unless they have been contacted by the council – and it’s clear to me that AVDC haven’t been in touch with them regarding Alex’s situation.

“They claim the practitioner doesn’t need to be notified because there is no welfare issues, but that’s rubbish.

He can’t go out unaccompanied in our current housing, he’s missing out on all the exercise he would usually get. We were basically told to bring a suitcase of clothes and a TV. If the council deems that doesn’t affect him, then who’s advising them? They have been obstructive throughout the whole process and are not willing to listen to our concerns, re-writing the rules as they see fit.”

A statement from AVDC which disputes the claims, said:

AVDC has been providing assistance to Mr Novakovic since his landlord served notice for him to quit his privately rented accommodation. We are aware that the Estate Agent offered alternative accommodation to Mr Novakovic at the time and he refused the offer on the basis that it wasn’t suitable. Following this, we housed his family in a self contained flat in our temporary accommodation facility, Griffin Place and accepted a homeless duty towards him.

Mr Novakovic previously reported to the Bucks Herald that the self contained accommodation at Griffin Place wasn’t large enough for his family and he felt he should be prioritised due to his son’s health condition. We are required to consider our Bucks Home Choice Policy when allocating housing and we have a number of families in our temporary accommodation with family members who have serious health conditions. As a result we are unable to prioritise his application above others.

We have received several medical letters advising us that Mr Novakovic and his family need to be housed as soon as possible. Having received this advice, we haven’t felt it necessary to seek anything further from our independent medical practitioner, as we felt that the doctors in charge of his son’s case were best placed to advise us.

In order to place Mr Novakovic’s family in a home, he must first express interest on suitable properties on our Bucks Home Choice website as they become available. It was noted by his Housing Advisor that Mr Novakovic had failed to express an interest in any properties during his time at Griffin Place (since 14th October). Given the urgency outlined in his medical letter, his Housing Advisor expressed interest in as many suitable properties as she could, in order to try and rehouse Mr Novakovic and his family as quickly as possible.

On 22 December we were able to offer Mr Novakovic and his family a large three bedroom house, with a separate dining room that could be converted to a further bedroom. Mr Novakovic made it clear to us at this time that he did not want to accept the offer of this property, but has failed to engage with his Housing Advisor to clearly state why he felt it wasn’t suitable. He has also declined to view the property.

We have tried on several occasions to establish what Mr Novakovic’s objections are to the property, so we could have considered these prior to making the Novakovic family a final offer. Unfortunately, Mr Novakovic has only advised us that he objected on the basis that he felt the property didn’t have enough bedrooms and that his son’s current school provided additional support. In response to this, we would say that the property offered is advertised as a large three bedroom house, suitable for six to eight people.

We understand that Mr Novakovic’s son has one year remaining in his current school and could stay there until it is time for him to move to secondary school. If Mr Novakovic has difficulty in taking the children to school in his family car, we believe that his children may also qualify for school transportation to allow them to remain in their current schools.

We are sorry that Mr Novakovic feels that we haven’t adequately assessed his case, however we believe that we have fully investigated all of the information he has given us. We would again, encourage Mr Novakovic to come and speak to his Housing Advisor so that we can fully understand his objections to the property.